Researchers at Microsoft ($MSFT) and the University of Cambridge have created a computer model to simulate blood cell development. The model can simulate the activity of genes tied to blood cancers, giving researchers a quick way to map the pathways that play out in leukemia and other diseases.
In a paper in Nature Biotechnology, researchers from several Cambridge, U.K.-based institutions and Microsoft explain how they modeled the transcriptional programs that shape the development of blood cells. The process began by measuring the genetic activity in 3,900 stem cells--which go on to form the various components of the blood--and then feeding the data into a computer model. Microsoft contributed a system it developed for computer code synthesis to the modeling project.
The outcome is a tool the researchers claim can run quick, simple tests. "With this new computer model, we can carry out simulated experiments in seconds that would take many weeks to perform in the laboratory, dramatically speeding up research into blood development and the genetic mutations that cause leukemia," University of Cambridge professor Bertie Göttgens said in a statement. The team validated the model's predictions for Hox and Sox genes with experimental data.
Research teams at Cambridge and Microsoft have created the cell development model in parallel to Bio Model Analyzer, a tool for showing signaling pathways and cellular stabilization. The teams see both tools as a way to identify druggable pathways and novel therapies. And having started in blood cell development, the researchers are now considering applying the framework to other diseases such as cancers of the breast and colon.